Petrol powered fuel cells

If the distribution of alternative fuels might be a short term problem, then why not manufacture a fuel cell that can generate electricity from a variety of fuels?

One programme, a partnership between the DOE, Arthur D Little, Plug Power, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Ballard Power Systems had its sights on exactly that and recently the development of a `fuel-flexible fuel processor’ has been designed and demonstrated.

The integrated fuel cell system uses a fuel cell stack from Plug Power and a multi-fuel processor from Epyx. During testing, fuel utilisation was significantly better than that of today’s internal combustion engine. In addition, the system produced greatly reduced emission levels, well below the Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) classification given to automobiles that generate nearly immeasurable amounts of pollutants and other particulate matter which cause smog.

The programme was initiated through DOE’s participation in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, a public/private collaboration with the primary goal of developing an environmentally friendly automobile that can attain up to 80mpg. At the end of the program, Plug Power and Epyx will deliver a fully integrated automotive fuel cell system that can power a full-sized car. Petrol is considered the most technically challenging fuel to work with. Current testing was performed using low sulphur petrol.

Next, the team will also demonstrate operation on California Phase II reformulated petrol, ethanol, methanol, M-85, and natural gas.

Plug Power plans to market power systems that operate on petrol to foreign and US automotive markets.

They are targeting 2001 for the development of a 50kW automotive PEM fuel cell power system prototype operating on reformed petrol. Commercial production of an automotive fuel cell power system is targeted for 2006.

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